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Dungen - 1999-2001

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Artist: Dungen

Album: 1999-2001

Label: Subliminal Sounds

Review date: Apr. 6, 2005

Dungen, a Swedish psychedelic pop project of brainchild musician Gustav Ejstes, released a stunning album in 2004, Ta det lugnt. The album exposed the band to a world audience, who in turn had their minds blown by its prescient mixture of psychedelic flash and sturdy melodic foundation. Dungen did so on their own terms, too, after escaping a binding contract with a regional arm of Virgin and recording the album in their native tongue.

Dungen is preparing itself for the world stage at this time, with extensive touring, licensing deals in the works, and a forthcoming album sung in English. Thus, it seems like a ripe time to delve into the band’s back catalog … but here’s the snag. Dungen’s first album, a self-titled affair, was released on vinyl in Sweden in 2001. Following this, they released a second, entitled Stadsvandringar, on the Virgin imprint Dolores in 2002. This same album was issued on vinyl with the title 2 on their current label Subliminal Sounds, with alternate versions of some tracks, and missing one song entirely. Various CD singles were also released in Sweden only (one tied in with some sort of Disney film, amazingly) that may or may not feature alternate versions of the songs on both albums. Now comes this new Dungen compilation, 1999 – 2001, containing elements of a song titled “Stadsvandringar” which has appeared as a single and on just about every Dungen album except Ta det lugnt. To complicate things even more, the self-titled album and 1999 – 2001 share the same cover art, as do Stadsvandringar and 2. I have heard only Ta det lugnt and 2, and as for the latter, it's a much more folky affair, full of ornate and fragile songs, and less consistent than what brought the band so much attention.

Which brings us to 1999 – 2001, no less jumbled than the paragraph above. Comprised of three long-form edits of material from their self-titled album and mostly unreleased music recorded during the titular years, 1999 – 2001 begs the question: if there’s such demand for Dungen’s earlier works, why not reissue them in earnest? It seems unlikely that anyone who came to the band via Ta det lugnt will have an easy time slogging through 12-minute pieces of studio glom with very little stylistic grace holding them together. Take for example the opening version of “Stadsvandringar” – beginning simply enough with the hippified pop version recognizable from 2, before shifting into a bossa beat with (ugh) lead flute and woodwinds and bass that could have emerged from the demo button on a Casio. Racecar sounds fade in as a gong is struck, which leads into a choral version of Ta det lugnt’s epic “Du E For Fin For Mig” … which leads into an unfortunate “jazz odyssey” as it were, then into drone. It’s hard to even gauge that this music, which spans all manner of instrumentation, style and purpose, was made by the same group of people. And it’s a shame the clutter is such a task to get through, because the last six minutes of this track contain as lovely an example of gentle latter-day psych folk as you could hope for.

The rest of the record fares about as well. “Midsommarbongen” is a six-part opus, spanning over 18 minutes with no breaks, and is a bit more successful at avoiding the trainwreck, as sitar drones bore their way through the surface to reveal racing, soundtrack-strength excitement. There are similar patches of glory in the closer “Lilla vännen,” but again, why not include them as they were originally heard? Why not take the time to present these rehearsal jams on their own strengths and flaws, and in doing so give listeners the opportunity to evaluate them as they were made?

The Subliminal Sounds website describes 1999 – 2001 as “sure to please everyone with ears open for Dungen.” This is suspect, and sounds more like the work of Ejstes rushing to assemble order from a chaotic stew of music recorded when he was barely out of his teens – which in itself is fairly stunning and regrettably sidelined with ADD-addled imprecision. Perhaps some lingering contractual issues with Dungen’s former label prevented a proper reissue. If so, this slapdash effort does nothing to dull the band's frustrations – it just passes them on to their fans.

By Doug Mosurock

Other Reviews of Dungen

Ta Det Lugnt

Tio Bitar


Skit I Allt

Read More

View all articles by Doug Mosurock

Find out more about Subliminal Sounds

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